E-commerce humbugs!

Spotlight on online purchasing platforms

31 March 2020 12:10 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Fraudulent transactions, late deliveries and rotten products are giving nightmares to desperate customers during this lockdown

A lorry distributing relief packages despatched by the Narahenpita Economic Centre

 

Social media has become a busy place following the indefinite curfew period. A mushrooming number of delivery services has come forward to serve customers with relief packages at various rates. While some customers have expressed their gratitude for their quick and efficient service, many services have also received negative reviews for overcharging, delayed deliveries and some even for delivering rotten fruits and vegetables. Apart from that, people in many areas of the country are awaiting relief packages promised through the government’s essential items distribution programme. 


In this backdrop the  sheds light on certain fraudulent transactions happening via e-delivery services and reviews by customers. 


Fraudulent transactions on E-delivery services


Following repeated complaints by customers, who purchased items through the popular retail website Kapruka.com, officials at the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) recently raided their office. They not only found that most items were overpriced on their website, but many were also sold out as well. This underscores the fact that many customers have bought them at rates way above the market price. Following the raid, the costs of most items were brought down, but customers identified several other issues; one being that they charge exorbitant delivery charges which do not change most of the time and customers are also not charged in LKR, but USD. 


Payment gateways and how they work 


A Payment Gateway (PG) is a software that authorises a customer to conduct an online transaction through different payment options such as net banking, credit and debit cards and many online wallets available at present. A PG plays a role of a third party that securely transfers your money from the bank account to the merchant’s payment portal. 
During an online transaction on an e-commerce site, a customer places his or her order and then presses the Submit or Checkout button, or its equivalent button, on the website. Once this happens, the website or the e-commerce platform takes the customer to a payment gateway where he or she enters all the relevant information about the bank or the card they are using to pay. The PG then takes the user directly to the page of the issuing bank or a 3D secure page, asking for the transaction to be authorised. Once the payment gateway gets the approval for the transaction, the bank then checks whether the customer has sufficient balance in the account to make this transaction a success. The payment gateway sends a message to the merchant accordingly. If the reply from the bank is a “No’”, then the merchant subsequently sends an error message to the customer, telling them about the issue with the card or the bank account. If the response is a “Yes” from the bank portal, then the merchant seeks the transaction from the bank. The bank settles the money with the payment gateway, which in turn settles the money with the merchant.

 


Produce not up to ‘guaranteed freshness’


Another platform that came forward to deliver fresh produce including fruits and vegetables was Lassana Flora. However, apart from the fact that certain hampers on offer were overpriced, customers were also not happy about the condition of vegetables delivered.


Abhishek Kanodia  working at ITC One Project at Colombo 1, living in Colombo 7, had ordered some essential items such as Rice, Dhal, Potato and Onions through Lassana Flora on 21st March. “This was before the curfew was lifted and the same was delivered on March 25. Except for one or two potatoes and garlic which were rotten, the rest were in good condition. When the same was not delivered till March 24, I thought it was a scam. But now at least I am confident that they can deliver items during this curfew period. We just need to make sure that we order the items little beforehand. Also Lassana Flora should give a confirmation call to confirm our order, so that we are assured that order will be delivered, which I didn’t get in this case,” said Kanodia.


Several customers also took to social media stating their dissatisfaction regarding Lassana Flora as most items they had ordered were substituted with other items. 


Mistakes accepted


I agree that there were mistakes in some packs. We have been in the flower business for over 20 years
- Lasantha Malavige

 

 


“Since we were the only online shop that delivered fruits and vegetables we received an unprecedented number of orders which we couldn’t handle,” said Dr. Lasantha Malavige, Founder / Chairman of Lassana Flora. “ We faced difficulties in sourcing fruits and vegetables from growers in different parts of the country. This is why we have said we will replace certain requirements. I agree that there were mistakes in some packs. We have been in the flower business for over 20 years and if a customer is unhappy with an order we arrange for a re-delivery or refund,” explained Dr.Malavige. 


When asked about pricing Dr. Malavige said that they have been very reasonable with the prices. “There had been a spike in market prices and we have increased the prices of our products by 15%. This was because we have many imported items such as apples, oranges in a hamper in addition to lentils and dry rations such as onions and garlic. The CAA has set a price structure for vegetables, but if we go by supply and demand we have to buy at a higher price. Therefore we have added at least three vegetables and fruits which are seasonally available. As a result, the cost of a pack would be less and it will be good value for money from a customer’s point of view,” he added. 


In response to a question asked on how they would manage requests in the coming few days Dr. Malavige said that they may have to set a limit. “It’s a worrying situation many people are genuinely in need of fruits and vegetables, but it’s overwhelming,” he said. 


Mixed reactions for govt.’s response, people opt for e-services 


Many who awaited relief packages that were to be distributed by the government are disappointed. People from areas such as Colpetty, Bambalapitiya, Rajagiriya, Kirulapona and Ragama are awaiting packages as promised by the government. As a result, many social media users are now relying on Facebook groups that are coordinating vegetables and grocery packs apart from services on apps such as PickMe. The following are comments that a few customers shared with us : 


“We didn’t receive any as mentioned during the government media briefing,” said Kanishka Wimalasuriya, an employee at a multinational beverage company from Katubedda. “However, even so-called online shops that ensure goods would be delivered to our doorsteps seem to be struggling with the exponential demand. Hence, if essential items are needed within a day or two, it seems the mechanism which was described by the government has not yet been properly initiated.” said Wimalasuriya. 

 

“We do appreciate all the necessary actions the government has taken to keep the public safe during this period, but with regard to essential goods, I didn’t receive any through DSs,” said Kushan Yapa, employed at MISL Engineering “I live in Godagama, and there’s not a single app or group that delivers goods to this area. We were given contact numbers of Co-op city and Sathosa, but none of those numbers worked either. We did order groceries and received them through the Meegoda Co-op city but haven’t received vegetables yet. Keells also doesn’t provide their services beyond Homagama and Athurugiriya,” said Yapa.


We were given contact numbers of Co-op city and Sathosa, but none of those numbers worked either
- Kushan Yapa

 



Meanwhile, Geraldine Bos from Kamburugamuwa, Matara, had received a package of vegetables for Rs. 200. “The GN got one of the village ladies to do a round of calls in the morning. By 12 noon it was delivered to her place, and we just crossed the road to pick them up. The vegetables are enough for a family to manage. It was a well-organized programme,” she said.
Ruzaika Rahman, a mother and teacher from Kelaniya is still awaiting a lorry distributing relief packages as promised by the government. “We haven’t had access to any vegetable lorries probably because they don’t travel on the lanes. It’s the people who have been helping each other. There are no mobile vehicles to buy butter, milk and other groceries too.” said Rahman. 
Shari Atukorala, a retired private sector employee, from Thilinapura, Kalutara, said that they had to buy fruits and vegetables from a private vendor. “By the time the government vehicles arrive at houses and by lanes we will run out of finances as we have no choice, but to buy from whoever who sells privately. I paid a total of Rs. 380 for 1 kg of carrots, 500 grams of beans and 250 grams of green chilies,” complained Atukorala. 


“There were three lorries that came down our lane on March 28 with packed bags of vegetables, fresh fish and chicken, said Rushani Soysa Talwatte, an inbound travel adviser residing in Melder Place, Nugegoda. “Our grama sevakha too had come along and informed everybody living in the by lanes to purchase anything they needed. Apart from that Sen Saal made a delivery of some bread to about five households and some cooked rice and pasta packs. We are grateful for their service,” said Talwatte. 


Residents in Bambalapitiya, including Fazna Gaffoor, are in a helpless situation. “As at March 29, we haven’t received any dry rations as promised by the government,” said Gaffoor who is a teacher by profession. “When we contacted the Police they asked us to speak to the grama sevaka, but she doesn’t respond to our calls. We did receive a pack of vegetables worth Rs. 500, but are running out on essentials and toiletries. Pharmacies too don’t respond to our calls,” said Gaffoor. 

 


The Dailymirror  therefore tried purchasing one of the items and this is what we experienced

 

 


 A bar of soap was priced at Rs. 50. Once delivery details were included and the final payment page appeared, the total adds up to Rs. 500 with a delivery charge of Rs. 449. 
However, Kapruka’s explanation of a delivery charge is as follows : Kapruka has arranged to pay extra delivery fees to our teams in order to be operational during curfew times / restricted days.  Apart from that, customers still complain that they haven’t received their orders placed as early as March 23 and some have been awaiting their orders for over a week. However, an automatic response is being generated assuring that the goods would be delivered by April 6 the latest. If customers ordered any essential items which they need to utilise as soon as possible, then they would have to keep waiting until the goods are delivered. (See PIC 1 for delivery charges and expected delivery date)

But, another customer's experience is as follows. “I purchased a few items worth LKR 2307. This included delivery fees as well. But after I entered my card details and submitted it, I got a SMS notification which states that I have been charged USD 16.45. But I wonder how I could be charged in dollars when this is a domestic transaction. If I was going to be charged in dollars, then they should have notified me prior to the transaction. I then checked the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) USD exchange rate which is  USD 189.25. Therefore the conversion is incorrect because I should have only been charged USD 12.20. They have charged USD 4.25 which is LKR 800.” (See PICS 2&3 for email and SMS notifications)


Speaking from his experience, he suspects whether Kapruka is using a different payment gateway. But he warns that in the case a local company is using international payment gateways, the CBSL has to immediately impose new laws to regulate the process before people get overcharged especially during a crisis situation as at present. 


Several other customers who were charged in dollars, also expressed their disappointment on social media. The Daily Mirror made several attempts to contact Dulith Herath, Founder / Chairman of Kapruka.com even reaching out to his social media account which proved futile. 

 

Email notification by Kapruka following a query by a customer apologising for their error

 

 

 

 

 

  Comments - 1

  • Dilshani samaraweera Friday, 03 April 2020 11:09 PM

    On my previous comment, I think I got dates mixed up. Fresh vegetables not available sice march 17.


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